The Dawkins Delusion

April 11, 2009


I honestly had no clue that there was a book with the subtitle of  “Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine” when I wrote an article on this blog a few months back titled “Concerning Atheist Fundamentalism.” I didn’t think that I had coined the term, but generally the type of worldview I was referring to I had seen noted as “fact fundamentalism,” “science fundamentalism” and “secular (humanist) fundamentalism.”  When I posted the blog with that title, I had a few comments quickly posted from people claiming that atheists could not be fundamentalists by their very nature. I disagreed, many others have and do disagree as well, one person commenting mentioned that the mindset I was criticizing was more likely “anti-theism” rather than atheism. I could (and may) discuss what anti-theism is and how it differs in more depth, but for now I’ll leave it at the point that anti-theism is more in tune with the ideas of John Shelby Spong and atheism is more like Stephen Jay Gould.
On the other hand, the prime example of “Atheist Fundamentalist” is Richard Dawkins.

Alister McGrath and Joanna McGrath take on the main arguments and ideas propagated by Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion” in the concise yet intelligent “Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine.” McGrath is a noted scientist, former atheist and now a Christian Theologian.  As a scientist,  McGrath appreciates and commends some of Dawkins’ earliest work such as “The Selfish Gene.” Yet McGrath notes the biased, nonfactual fervent loud cries that Dawkins has devolved to in later works that is drawing ire and criticism from those of every religious persuasion as well as fellow scientists and other atheists. McGrath points out correctly that roughly as many scientists believe in God as do not. In 1999, a poll of all working in the field of science showed the results as 45 % that do not believe in God, 40 % do believe in God and the rest responded that they are unsure or have no certain opinion. There are numerous scientists like McGrath, including Francis Collins (Director of the Human Genome Project) and Owen Gingerich (of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), that share a worldview that promotes rigorous use of the scientific method as well as theology and a life of faith.

The main point of rational folks in the field of science is that God and “the divine” can neither be proven nor disproved within the realm of science. Dawkins’ for the past few years has shrilly insisted that everything true and real can be proven in science. For Dawkins and his ilk, nothing is true or real if it cannot be scientifically classified. This discounts any truth that may be gleaned through historical study, literature, music, philosophy, anthropology, sociology…the list goes on. The natural sciences are the only worthwhile measuring stick. This moves Dawkins far beyond most rational scientists, far beyond most atheists even. And yes, it places him distinctly past anti-theists ( who may be pantheist, panentheist or agnostic).

Interestingly, for someone who places so much emphasis on science and the scientific method, Dawkins’ commits many grievous errors in (mis)placing his arguments within a scientific context. McGrath makes great points in this regard, pointing out the lapses, jumps and misuse of science in the two principal arguments Dawkins’ uses in his inquiry into the real origin of religion. Dawkins claims that religion is “a virus of the mind,” and makes the jump that since “superstitious” belief spreads amongst families, communities and societies it is “like a virus” and then Dawkins makes the jump from “like a virus” to the statement “religion is a virus of the mind,” without giving any remotely scientific proof of such a proposition. Then there’s Dawkins’ theory of the “meme” which postulates the existence of tiny mental “memes” that jump from person to person in society and become ingrained in genes down family lines—again, without a shred of scientific proof or backing.

Dawkins becomes angry when his position is questioned. When someone in the scientific community professes any type of faith in any religious area, Dawkins believes they must be lying or using such statements in the hopes of gaining some sort of personal advantage. When Pope John Paul professed admiration for science and Darwin, Dawkins scoffed that he as well was lying.

Dawkins’ does everything a fundamentalist of any sort does—clings to a few sources and ideas and uses them for ultimate proof of any and every opinion he has regardless of new discovery, fact and rational thought. Holds the opposite view in complete contempt and makes no concession to any other argument, regardless of any proof or support that argument happens to have. Claims that all matters in life can be addressed and answered from one sphere of thought without any doubt at any time.  Most of all, perhaps, if the facts and information do not really support your claims as well as you would like, simply shout louder than the opposition and be heard. This is Dawkins.

McGrath does a wonderful job in briefly contrasting Dawkins with Stephen Jay Gould. Gould was an atheist as well, yet he never claimed that science could disprove faith, nor that the natural sciences were the only field capable of producing truth of any kind. Gould didn’t think religion was the source of all evil as Dawkins does. Gould believed that although he was an atheist, science was unable to sway one in either direction in that matter. Gould rightly knew that some things lay outside the field of science.

In coming blogs I plan to review a few other notable short books that pertain to this area. Next up, soon enough, will be one about “Irreligion,” in which a mathematician, John Allen Paulos, tries to argue that “the numbers just don’t add up” to point to God’s existence.


3 Responses to “The Dawkins Delusion”

  1. mayamuslimah said

    Atheists are very irrational and very judgamental, Their emotions (such as pride and fear) emerge when they debate rather than reason and respect.

  2. Sentinel said

    Interesting post.

    For more on Gould vs. Dawkins, you may enjoy this post that I wrote a few months ago:

  3. Librería islámica said

    here u can find some videos of debates with atheists…very interesting as well

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